of Truth, Memory, Terror
by Professor Bruce Magnusson, Politics
What is the study of politics
without good stories?
All of the books I am recommending are not only uncommonly good
stories, but they are all, fiction and nonfiction, stories about
stories and memories -- their uses, abuses, loss and recovery.
Absalom, Absalom!: The Corrected
Text by William Faulkner (Vintage International,
1990). I like to think of this book by Nobel Prize-winner William
Faulkner as an exorcism of sorts and an excavation of a family story
that is also the story of the American South and its sense of place,
identity, secrets, and mythology. This is a difficult novel of awful
beauty, but it is my favorite Faulkner novel.
Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Perennial
Classics, 1998). It is commonplace to compare Marquez (who won the
Nobel Prize in 1982) with Faulkner. The thematic resemblances of
family, identity, and memory are striking, but Marquez sucks us
into the entirely different world of the village of Macondo and
the exploitation of international politics.
Short History of a Small Place by T. R.
Pearson, 1st Owl book ed. (Henry Holt & Co., 1994). This book
might be called the anti-Faulkner. In that southern
story-telling tradition, the themes of family, community, identity,
secrets, dysfunction, and memory are the same, but this is truly
the funniest book I have ever read. It demands being read aloud
and in whatever North Carolina accent you can muster.
King Leopolds Ghost: A Story of Greed,
Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild
(Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999). This chronicle reminds us that the
20th century is framed by the killing fields in the Congo, first
by King Leopold at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries (8-10
million people dead?), and now (1998-2002) by multiple militias,
armies, warlords, and economic interests (2.5 million dead?). This
is a book about power politics, journalism, and the recovery of
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and
Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed
Rashid (Yale University Press, 2001). Published before September
11, Taliban reminds us that Afghanistan has a history between
the withdrawal of the Soviets and the war on terrorism. This is
a fascinating journalistic account of at least part of the story
of how we got here from there. What we dont know, we cant
No Future Without Forgiveness
by Desmond Tutu (Doubleday & Co., 2000). South Africas
Truth and Reconciliation Commission establishes a common national
story out of the individual stories of the victims and perpetrators
of apartheid. This is a personal and emotional account of the struggle
to establish a common South African identity through a truthful
accounting of the past.
Bruce Magnusson, Assistant Professor of Politics